COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Medical marijuana patients near Columbus will soon be able to pick up prescriptions without leaving their cars.

Amplify is preparing to open the doors to its second dispensary in Columbus, in the Preserve North neighborhood near New Albany. The dispensary arm of Cleveland-based cannabis grower and processor Buckeye Relief, Amplify’s Columbus location will be the first drive-thru dispensary in the area – and the second in the state.

Leslie Brandon, marketing and communications director for Buckeye Relief, said operating the company’s first dispensary in Cleveland Heights helped them realize patients’ different needs. Some patients, especially new cannabis users, benefit from the guidance of in-person patient consultants or pharmacists who can help a person discern the best choice among the hundreds of options inside a dispensary. 

But experienced cannabis users don’t need the hands-on oversight, Brandon said.

“If you’re the patient who knows exactly what they want, they want to just place an order for pickup, efficient, fast service, we can facilitate that as well,” Brandon said. “And I think the drive-thru just offers another avenue for that.”

The dispensary’s drive-thru is for online order pickup only, but Amplify will offer streamlined ordering options inside as well. Touch-screen kiosks line the walls inside Amplify’s backroom, inviting patients to scroll through dozens of cannabis categories. Customers can order straight from the kiosks and walk out with filled prescriptions in 10-15 minutes.

“I think it’s going to be great to have a very efficient process to get patients in and out,” said Mike Reed, Amplify’s general manager.

Patients can choose from flower, vape cartridges, live resin, tinctures, lotions, cured wax or edibles ranging from classic gummies to THC-infused lemonade. Amplify is stocked with products from dozens of cultivators and processors, both nationally-recognized and Ohio-made, including Akron-based Klutch Cannabis, central Ohio’s Pure Ohio Wellness, Wana, Old Pal – and, of course, Buckeye Relief.

Nervous or less experienced users can find patient consultants like Jason Holdren behind the bar, ready to help direct patients toward the best forms – and strains – of cannabis for their individual conditions. Holdren, whose background is in food, entered the cannabis industry because, like chefs, patient consultants’ main goal is to make sure people enjoy what they consume.

“Whatever ails them, I will try to help them with and make them more comfortable,” Holdren said.

More than 330,000 Ohioans have registered with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program as of the end of 2022, according to the program. Of those patients, nearly 160,000 have active physician recommendations and registrations.

One of those patients is Melissa Eppich, a wholesale manager with The Botanist. As someone with two autoimmune conditions, she said medical marijuana has helped her quality of life.

“I only use cannabis,” Eppich said, opting against traditional pharmaceuticals that didn’t provide the relief she needed.

In her time in the cannabis industry, Eppich said she’s heard similar stories from patients over the years. 

“I’ve met patients early on who I run into six months later and they tell me, ‘I remember you! I can sleep now, I can eat now, my anxiety is gone,’” Eppich said.

Eppich was among about a dozen other brand ambassadors at the dispensary Wednesday, hoping to make connections with potential patients and pitch their products already on Amplify’s shelves. In a room full of fellow cannabis industry workers vying for the same attention, Eppich said the opening felt anything but tense – rather, the room was full of hearty conversation and laughter as competitors schmoozed with each other.

“Honestly, it’s an amazing industry,” she said. “These are supposed to be our enemies, but they’re some of my best friends.”

Amplify isn’t ready for pickup orders or drop-ins yet – Brandon said the dispensary is still waiting for its official certificate from the state. But she said they expect to open at 5304 N. Hamilton Road in about two weeks.